For years, we have been advising all our guests to wear helmets when skiing or snowboarding. Helmets are not just for the crazy off piste free-skiers or boarders. Anyone who is on a piste without a helmet is potentially at risk. Perhaps not from their own actions, but there are always plenty of other people around who travel too fast and slightly out of control.
FIS has today issued a strong recommendation in favour of the use of helmets for all alpine skiers and boarders. It maintains that new scientific evidence goes a long way to clearing up doubts following the somewhat inconclusive studies of recent years. The latest study is reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (a summary follows)…
FIS strongly recommends the use of helmets for all alpine skiers and snowboarders based on new scientific evidence proving the protective effect of helmets.
Based on new scientific evidence published today in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that helmet use reduces head injuries by up to 60%, FIS strongly recommends the use of helmets for all alpine skiers and snowboarders regardless of skiing ability and age.
The findings of the research conducted among more than 6,000 alpine skiers and snowboarders at eight Norwegian ski resorts mark the first time that a well-structured, case control study has conclusively demonstrated that using a helmet is associated with a reduction in the risk for head injury. Previously, scientific surveys had failed to make an irrefutable case in support of helmet use in alpine skiing and snowboarding, citing problems with reduced field of vision, impaired hearing, and higher risk of cervical spine injuries, among others.
While the use of helmets is mandatory for competitors in FIS downhill, super-G and giant slalom as well as all Snowboarding events, many recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders do not wear a helmet and ski resorts do not typically require helmet use. Only very few countries have legislation requiring the use of helmets by recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders. At the same time, head injury is the most common cause of hospital visits and death among alpine skiers and snowboarders.
“We at FIS are concerned about the relatively high levels of head injuries suffered by recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders worldwide. These research results are very significant in supporting our efforts to make our sports as safe as possible. We call on the entire alpine skiing and snowboarding community to take steps, including drafting new policies or rules, which will lead to an increased use of helmets,” said Professor Bengt Saltin, Chairman of the FIS Medical Committee.
In the research study conducted by a group of scientists led by Roald Bahr, Director of the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, there were 578 head injuries (17.6%) among the 3,277 injured skiers investigated. Even after adjusting for risk factors such as age, sex, skill level, and type of equipment used, their analysis found that the protective effect of helmet use and reduced risk for head injuries was consistent across all skier and snowboarder groups.
As announced on January 24th, 2006, FIS is in the process of developing an Injury Surveillance System (ISS) for the FIS disciplines at the elite level, demonstrating the active stance that the organization has adopted to help reduce injuries in its disciplines through new rules and regulations, as well as playing a leading role in drafting and coordinating injury prevention programs for all skiing disciplines.
JAMA summarises the study findings as follows:
Although using a helmet is assumed to reduce the risk of head injuries in alpine sports, this effect is questioned. In contrast to bicycling or inline skating, there is no policy of mandatory helmet use for recreational alpine skiers and snowboarders.
To determine the effect of wearing a helmet on the risk of head injury among skiers and snowboarders while correcting for other potential risk factors.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Case-control study at 8 major Norwegian alpine resorts during the 2002 winter season, involving 3,277 injured skiers and snowboarders reported by the ski patrol and 2,992 noninjured controls who were interviewed on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The controls comprised every 10th person entering the bottom main ski lift at each resort during peak hours. The number of participants interviewed corresponded with each resort’s anticipated injury count based on earlier years.
Main Outcome Measure
Injury type, helmet use, and other risk factors (age, sex, nationality, skill level, equipment used, ski school attendance, rented or own equipment) were recorded. A multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between individual risk factors (including helmet wear) and risk of head injury by comparing skiers with head injuries with uninjured controls, as well as to skiers with injuries other than head injuries.
Head injuries accounted for 578 injuries (17.6%). Using a helmet was associated with a 60% reduction in the risk for head injury (odds ratio [OR], 0.40; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.30-0.55; adjusted for other risk factors) when comparing skiers with head injuries with uninjured controls. The effect was slightly reduced (OR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.34-0.59) when skiers with other injuries were used as controls. For the 147 potentially severe head injuries, those who were referred to an emergency physician or for hospital treatment, the adjusted OR was 0.43 (95% CI, 0.25-0.77). The risk for head injury was higher among snowboarders than for alpine skiers (adjusted OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.22-1.91).
Wearing a helmet is associated with reduced risk of head injury among snowboarders and alpine skiers.